Wall Street Drifts in Morning Trade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are drifting Friday as a listless week on Wall Street appears to be heading toward a quiet close, even as big worries continue to roil under the surface.

The S&P 500 was 0.1% higher in early trading and on pace for a sixth straight week where it moved less than 1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 20 points, or 0.1%, at 33,330, as of 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, while the Nasdaq composite edged higher by less than 0.1%.

Despite the seemingly placid moves for the overall market, big swings have swirled underneath amid worries about a possible recession, high inflation and the U.S. government inching toward what could be a catastrophic default on its debt.

One area under heavy pressure this week was looking to stabilize as PacWest Bancorp's stock recovered a bit of its big loss. It's been under heavy scrutiny as Wall Street hunts for the next possible U.S. bank to fail following three high-profile collapses since March.

PacWest rose 1.7% a day after sliding sharply when it disclosed a flight of deposits from the prior week. It's still down 17 % for the week so far.

Stocks of other smaller and mid-sized banks also rose, including a 1.4% gain for Western Alliance Bancorp.

Banks have been bending under the weight of much higher interest rates, which have caused some customers to pull deposits in search of higher yields while also dragging down prices for the investments that the banks hold.

Rates are so high because the Federal Reserve has been hiking them at a furious pace in order to drive down inflation. Reports this week suggested inflation is continuing to moderate from its peak last year, though it remains way too high for the comfort of households and regulators.

The hope on Wall Street is that easing inflation may convince the Fed to hold off on raising rates again at its next meeting in June. That would offer some breathing room to both the economy, which has already begun to slow, and to financial markets, where prices began falling long ago.

News Corp. rose 8.9% after it reported a milder drop in profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

That's been the trend for most of this earnings reporting season. Reports have been better than feared but still weaker than a year earlier. Companies in the S&P 500 are on track to report a second straight quarter of drops in earnings per share, something that's called an "earnings recession."

First Solar soared 19.4% after announcing it's purchasing Evolar AB, a European company, to accelerate its development of high efficiency tandem devices and other technologies. It's paying about $38 million, with up to $42 million more possible if certain milestones are hit. .

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 3.38% from 3.39% late Thursday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.

The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, held steady at 3.90%.